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Toyota recalls 885,000 vehicles over airbag problem

Toyota is recalling 885,000 vehicles over a defect that could prevent airbags from deploying in a crash.
Toyota is recalling 885,000 vehicles over a defect that could prevent airbags from deploying in a crash.Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

Toyota Motor Co. is recalling 885,000 vehicles worldwide over electrical problems that could prevent airbags from deploying in a crash, the latest in a series of major safety-related actions for the carmaker. 

About 803,000 of the vehicles covered by the latest recall — a mix of sedans and crossovers — were sold in the United States, according to Toyota. Within the past month, Toyota has recalled nearly 1.5 million other vehicles over a mix of additional problems.

The announcement comes just days after the maker won a critical victory in a California court in connection with the unintended acceleration scandal that led to the recall of more than 10 million Toyota vehicles and has so far led to the payback of several billion dollars in settlements and jury verdicts.

According to Toyota the latest recall was caused by a potential short circuit that could cause airbag warning lights to turn on and, in some cases to disable the airbags themselves so that they might not deploy in an accident. In some instances, however, the airbags could also deploy inadvertently.

Toyota said the problem is due to water leaking out from the air conditioning condenser unit onto the airbag control module. The leak could also result in additional problems, potentially causing a short circuit that would disable the power-steering system. In this case, it could become difficult to turn a vehicle, especially at lower speeds.

Toyota said the issue has led to two "minor" injuries and no accidents. 

The recall covers 2012 and 2013 Camry sedans and hybrids, the full-size Avalon sedan and hybrid and the Venza crossover.

The maker will directly notify owners in the weeks ahead and dealers will make repairs at no charge. The fix requires the application of sealant and a new cover to prevent water from leaking onto the airbag control module.

The world’s best-selling automaker, Toyota has faced an unprecedented series of recalls in recent years, including a number of service actions related to so-called unintended acceleration, in which vehicles allegedly have raced out of control without driver input. A jury last week ruled in the maker’s favor in one critical case that could influence how other unintended acceleration suits move forward.

In an interview this past week, Toyota’s top North American executive, Jim Lentz, said he thought the maker had gotten through the worst of the runaway car crisis. While generally known for high quality, Toyota has had some serious recall headaches. It has, in fact, had more vehicles recalled in the U.S. than any other manufacturer for four of the last five years and is in a dubious race for first this year, as well.

In early September, the maker announced luxury and hybrid models would be recalled due to a pair of safety defects. Less than a week later it recalled another 1 million vehicles worldwide to correct a faulty, earlier recall that attempted to address serious corrosion issues that could lead to a crash.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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